Firsthand experience with TiVo Roamio Plus that I easily upgraded to 3TB

Posted by Paul Braren on Oct 14 2013 in
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  • Here's what an Amazon reviewer had to say, on Sept 25 2013, Upgraded from a Premier:

    Many out there are wondering how to upgrade these units them selves so let me clear the air. The same time I purchased this from Amazon, I also purchased a WD 3tb AV-GP hard drive with it. Right from the box, I opened this Tivo with torx bits, removed the old 1TB hard drive and installed the new 3tb hard drive. The hard drive it comes with is the same WD AV-GP hard drive just in 1tb fashion. After I installed the new 3TB hard drive, hooked up and booted, the Roamio will download and install/configure the Tivo for the new hard drive automatically.

    Yeah. It's that easy! I've now done it myself, using Amazon Prime to overnight ship this replacement for our TiVo Premier, whose 2TB drive died pretty suddenly last week. After years of sluggish performance, I'm no longer embarrassed to admit we still use a TiVo in my household, with Roamio effectively resolving most of the user interface speed problems.

    This article is intended for those thinking about upgrading their Roamio, who haven't yet pulled the trigger and placed an order. It's simpler to describe what to do when there's no software, transfers, or cloning to deal with, on a brand new Roamio, which automatically handles all the drive layout stuff for you. Very much easier than the last roughly 14 years of TiVo home upgrades, for those comfortable working with a screwdriver on the insides of a computer.

    I always tried to avoid external drives upgrade hanging off the back of their new TiVo, to reduced points of failure. Yes, your hard drive will die soon enough, usually somewhere between 3-5 years down the road.

    If you start your shopping with a comparison of the 3 TiVo Roamio models, you'll find the TiVo comparison grid, and the more detailed tech comparison over on weaKnees. When I reviewed those grids, I realized that my plans to do some streaming to iOS devices meant the base $199.99 Roamio model was quickly ruled out.

    Next, we have the Roamio Plus with the 1TB drive for ~$400 USD, versus the Roamio Pro with the 3TB dr"network client" The VPN server list could not be obtained from the server. (RIG0420E)ive for $600 USD. That's a $200 price difference. You will spend much of that difference on getting the 3TB drive, but you'll also have the original 1TB drive, to set aside.

    If you're not comfortable with opening your TiVo, then weeKnees options sound pretty nice right now. There are dangers to opening your new TiVo Roamio. You'll want to stay very clear of the power supply, especially if you've had your Roamio plugged in recently.

    If you are comfortable taking on the upgrade yourself, here's the complete recipe of ingredients you'll need, for a total price of under $550 USD, depending on the (admittedly volatile) 3TB drive cost.

    Roamio-all-3-items-in-1-shopping-cart

    As of Nov 7 2013 in the US, you're shopping cart should look something like what's shown at right. Note, buying just the Roamio directly from TiVo.com will make subscription handling/activation simpler.

    That's it!

    • You've now created a Pro out of your Plus!
    • 150 hours of HD recording capacity bumped up to 450 hours.
    • You now have a spare 1TB drive to store, or re-use as you wish.
    • Upgrade only takes about 10 extra minutes of your time, saving over $50.
      Video overview of the simple process to be published soon, right below this article.
    • If you already have a Cablecard (for me, my Premiere's drive had failed, chose to get Roamio from Amazon, then insert the Cablecard into the Roamio, it worked fine, without having to call Cox Cable)
    • If you already have a cable-company-provided SDV (Switched Digital Video) tuning adapter, such as the old Motorola MTR700, just plug it in to the Roamio, it works. I went with the coax cable to the SDV, then from the SDV into the Roamio, a wiring method seen pictured 5 years ago here, and on tivo.com here. Sure wish the Roamio had SDV capability built in, would be a lot less clumsy, and perhaps offer less signal loss.
    • In hindsight, if I had patience to wait for TiVo.com to mail me a unit, that would have been an even smoother experience, avoiding having to activate the new Roamio at tivo.com, and having to call TiVo to cancel the service on the Premiere.
    • Also keep in mind that if you buy an annual tivo.com subscription, and the unit fails before that annual plan ran out, you'll really want to work with tivo.com folk at their customer support phone line to order a new unit directly from them, asking for expediting shipping. That way, you are less likely to wind up losing out on months of service that you already paid for.

    If you have an existing TiVo, you'll then want to follow TiVo's simple Season Pass manager instructions that makes short work of getting all those passes onto your Roamio. It even works when your old TiVo is entirely dead or offline.

    Why 3TB?

    2TB drive would cost a bit less, but I'd rather not have to upgrade again. And 4TB drives are still a bit pricey, and tougher to deal with for upgrades, for numerous reasons described here, but sold pre-installed at weaKnees.

    Issues?

    I'd say the new cheaper, lighter, non-backlit RF/IR remote is a step back from the fully backlit Bluetooth-based slider remote. But at least that can be remedied soon we hope, with the rumored upcoming new slider. Also noticed that the new TiVo seems to use 2 IP addresses on my local wired network.

    Overall, improved UI and better fonts for most daily use. But browsing Netflix or Amazon catalogs still not as pretty or smooth as a lowly Apple TV.

    Backstory:

    I realize it's rather retro of me to even talk about a DVR that has a monthly charge, when many folks are cord-cutting. It's just my family isn't quite able to cut the cord quite yet, despite having trimmed down the channel line-up considerably these past few years. And the Roamio actually makes it far easier to search across Netflix and Amazon Prime quickly and easily. See also Engadget:

    ...our favorite feature of the TiVo Roamio: its speed. Seriously, we can't remember ever using a TiVo this fast. Perhaps we're just conditioned by years of molasses on the TiVo Premiere...the Roamio is faster than the Premiere in every way; from watching something live, we can play a show from the My Shows list within six seconds versus 16 on the Premiere XL4 (that's five button presses).

    That new speed helps with more than just navigating the TiVo native UI. In fact, Netflix launches in less than eight seconds, compared to the 40 seconds it takes on the Premiere XL4.

    So when the 2TB drive in our TiVo Premiere bit the dust last week, the time-frame to find a replacement was sped up considerably. The recent, great reviews for the TiVo Roamio sprang to mind, so we made the decision to go with a few more years with traditional TV by giving the TiVo Roamio a try. In our first few days of ownership, we can already say that 6 tuners, responsive remote, and greatly sped up user interface have already made it a lot more enjoyable to use, for the whole family.

    In a way, you could say that I've looked forward to writing this article for over a decade, way back to the DirecTV TiVo units that combined a Satellite receiver with a TiVo. Yeah, I left those snowy over-the-air reception issues behind me and my family, way back in 1999. And all those years, I've been able to take apart my TiVo and clone the hard drive myself, using a PC and a Linux boot CD. You'd just type some Linux dd commands carefully, walk away, then come back a few hours later , type some more stuff to expand the partition to use the bigger new drive space. Label and store the original puny drive, then install the bigger drive back in the TiVo, power it up, tada, many more hours of storage, at a far cheaper price than buying TiVo's premium capacity models. This practice became common for me to do for my extended family at multiple households over the years. Should warranty or service issues arise, I could put the original drive back in. Or just sell the TiVo after a reset to factory default and deletion of all recordings, fetching a decent price on eBay. Impressive that the TiVo community has been able to do all that for over a decade, with strong TiVo Community support forums.

    Flash forward to 2013. While TiVo never encouraged internal drive upgrades, they don't do anything to prevent it either. I'm talking about straight drive upgrades here, without the clumsy and pricier external drive upgrades that introduce points of failure I'd rather not deal with. Things like loose eSATA cables and external drive enclosure failures, that always made recovery from inevitable drive failures more complicated, especially for the units not located in my home. Not inclined to want to deal with any of that ever again, now that Roamio upgrades are so simple, taking only about 10 extra minutes of my time.

    Click the image below, to view the full feature comparison chart:

    Roamios-compared
    click the image to view full comparison chart

    If recording over the air TV is important, be sure to check out the entire first paragraph at weeknees here.


    Oct 20 2013 Update:
    With some more time with the unit, I have some additional observations.

    • family is gradually getting used to the new remote, but lack of backlighting has hindered that effort
    • TiVo Roamio uses about 20 watts of electricity, seems reasonable
    • streaming to iPhone 5 inside the home works quite nicely, with minimal lag when using the controls, looking forward to trying with an iPad someday
    • glad that TiVo finally listened to my 5 years or so of complaints about UI speed in various surveys, finally investing some of their lawsuit wins into better hardware and software design

    Oct 25 2013 Update:
    Next thing to try is remote viewing, now that the updated TiVo App has been released. Here's a set of screenshots that shows that initial configuration process, which takes less than a minute. Seems likely to be a one-time thing.

    Set-up-streaming-device
    Set up streaming device
    Would-you-like-to-set-up-streaming-on-this-mobile-device
    Would you like to set up streaming on this mobile device
    Streaming-Device-Found-Linking-streaming-device
    Streaming Device Found – Linking streaming device
    Ready-to-stream
    Ready to stream

    On a related note, tapping the "Tutorial" button brings you to the TiVo Stream Tutorial on YouTube.


    Nov 07 2013 Update:
    See also TiVo Roamio, One Month Later by Dave Zatz on Sep 26 2013.


    Nov 15 2013 Update:
    TiVo Slide Pro Remote now available directly from TiVo for $49.99. Read more at TinkerTry,

    Quick look at the TiVo Slide Pro Remote.

    Large-TiVo-Slide-Pro-Remote

    Feb 08 2013 Update:
    Trying to find ways to easily record your favorite Sochi Winter Olympic Sports?

    TiVo.com sent out this email blast reminder today telling you exactly how to do it!

    TiVo-Sochi-Winter-Olympics